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How Do We Get This Done?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Montbello HS protesters. Image via Twitter

Montbello HS protesters, 12/4/2014. Image via Twitter

In 1992, I watched in horror as the jury of Rodney King failed to convict the police that beat him, a black man. Even with the video, the all-white jury said that no crime was committed. At 27 years old, I felt like my world fell apart. How could the people in my generation not see this as crime? How was it possible that in 1992, as I watched Los Angeles burn, I was dealing the same disappointment my father dealt with in 1965, as he watched Watts burn.

I was sure, in my 27-year-old mind, that I had seen the last of racial inequality. In the days, weeks and years that followed Rodney King, I watched the LA police force systematically dismantled. I saw white people stand with black people and say this was wrong and we must do better as Americans. My young heart felt like that while America had failed to do the right thing for Rodney King, in the aftermath, we seemed to be learning and growing closer as a people.

I was wrong. Sign here if you want to see something change.

On November 22, 2014, a video released by the Cleveland police showed Officer Timothy A. Loehmann, 26, shooting Tamir Rice immediately upon leaving his police car on November 22. Investigators said 12-year-old Tamir was reaching into his waistband for a weapon — which turned out to be a toy pellet gun. The Cleveland police officer who shot and killed the 12-year-old last month resigned from a previous small-town police job when he was deemed emotionally unstable and unfit for duty, especially in his handling of firearms.

In August 2014, Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown to death in broad daylight. Despite multiple eyewitness accounts and images of his own face contradicting Wilson's narrative of events, a grand jury declined to indict Wilson.

In July 2014, New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked unarmed black man Eric Garner to death, in broad daylight, while a bystander caught it on video. Despite the video, despite an NYPD prohibition of exactly the sort of chokehold Pantaleo used, and despite the New York City medical examiner ruling the death a homicide, a Staten Island grand jury declined even to indict Pantaleo.

In November 2006, a group of five New York police officers shot unarmed black man Sean Bell to death in the early morning hours of his wedding day. In April 2008, despite multiple eyewitness accounts contradicting the officers' accounts of the incident, Justice Arthur J. Cooperman acquitted the officers of all charges, including reckless endangerment.

In February of 1999, four plainclothes New York police officers shot unarmed black man Amadou Diallo to death outside of his home. A year later, an Albany jury acquitted the officers of all charges, including reckless endangerment.

And the list continues…

(more…)

Immigration Reformers Await Gardner, Coffman Votes Today

UPDATE #2: Salon.com's Luke Brinker:

Endorsing Rep. Cory Gardner’s campaign against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado this fall, the editorial board of the Denver Post assured readers that Gardner was not the extremist Udall and Democrats depicted…

It turns out that maybe Gardner didn’t really mean all that stuff about being warm and fuzzy and moderate. Sure, he did what he needed to do during the campaign — voting against a bill, sponsored by Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, that would have blocked deportation relief for those who came to the U.S. as youth. But today, Gardner lined up with Tea Party conservatives to support Florida Rep. Ted Yoho’s bill to prevent President Obama from carrying out his executive order granting deportation reprieves to unauthorized immigrants with family ties and expanding the program that allows migrants brought to the country as youth to remain in the U.S.

—–

UPDATE: Rep. Mike Coffman one of only seven Republicans to vote against today's bill symbolically chastising President Barack Obama for his immigration executive order, while Cory Gardner votes yes–FOX 31:

Gardner, who defeated Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and is positioning himself as a moderate within the GOP Senate caucus, voted with a majority of House Republicans in support of Rep. Ted Yoho’s bill that seeks to bar the executive branch from delaying deportations.

Coffman, who pummeled Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff in a re-drawn and newly diverse 6th Congressional District largely on the strength of his outreach to Latinos and other immigrant communities, was one of just seven House Republicans to vote against Yoho’s bill.

Gardner immediately released a statement following the vote, explaining that he opposes the president’s unilateral action but not comprehensive immigration reform overall…

“I voted against H.R. 5759 because, although I strongly believe that it is unconstitutional to have immigration policy made through executive orders and without the consent of Congress, this legislation will only mislead the American people into believing that we are taking care of the problem when the only way to address President Obama’s overreach is either through the U.S. Supreme Court or through the appropriation’s process,” Coffman said.

—–

Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.

Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.

A press release from local immigration reform advocates and the Service Employees International Union challenges Colorado Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman to align their votes with their campaign rhetoric this year, as the House prepares to vote in symbolic opposition to President Barack Obama's executive order later today:

After two years of failing to take up any attempt at meaningful immigration reform in the House, now Republicans have announced that in response to President Obama’s executive action on immigration, they’ll be voting tomorrow to undo the action. While the vote is largely symbolic as it would not pass in the US Senate, it’s a gesture that Republicans see as a way to express their anger at the President for taking steps within his authority to fix the immigration system on his own.

However, the bill is a direct attack on millions of immigrant families and DREAMers whose lives changed because of this new program and the President’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The bill set to be voted on tomorrow was introduced by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) and it would undo both the programs initiated by the President that have and will allow millions to come out of the shadows and apply for legal status and work permits…

Juan Carlos de la Cruz, SEIU Local 105 Executive Board Member, said “Tens of thousands of undocumented Colorado immigrants have lived here for years, worked hard to provide for their families and do their part. With the President’s new program, they’ll finally be able to get papers and contribute more to this state that’s become their home. I can’t believe that Republicans are already trying to take this away and subject them to deportation all over again. I call on Cory Gardner and his fellow Republicans to reject this extremist bill and stand up for immigrants and their families.”

“President Obama just stepped up to begin solving a problem that Republicans have been refusing to address for years. And, he’s improved the lives of millions by taking action. If Republicans don’t like what he did, nothing is stopping them from passing the bipartisan bill sitting on their desk that would solve this problem once and for all,” said Patty Kupfer, Denver-based Managing Director of America’s Voice. “Cory Gardner has said he’s a new kind of Republican. Well, these are the same old Republican tactics to do nothing and then blame Obama. Tomorrow we’ll see whether or not he’s willing to stand up to his party and do the right thing.”

We haven't heard anything from either Gardner or Coffman on how they intend to vote today, but Gardner's previous statements about President Obama's executive order are not encouraging. Most debate over the legality of Obama's order is among conservatives, including 17 red states that filed suit yesterday–this despite persuasive arguments from legal experts that the executive order was not just legal, but in line with similar actions taken by Republican presidents.

We'll update after today's vote. Did Gardner and Coffman's newfound support for immigrant rights survive November 4th? We're about to get our first indication.

Marble, Lundberg suggest CO should help pay for TX border security program

(But would they give up TABOR refunds to do it? - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

As House Republicans are poised to vote to stop Obama's executive order to halt deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, two Colorado State Senators are saying Colorado should contribute tax dollars to Texas Governor Rick Perry's efforts to secure the southern border.

Calling Obama's action "nuts" and arguing that "you've got to first secure the border," Assistant Republican Majority Leader Kevin Lundberg said in a recent radio interview that Texas has "spent probably $100 million in the last several months helping to show that you can secure the border. I’m all for Colorado stepping up and being a part of the solution."

Tea Party radio host Ken Clark, who asked Lundberg about immigration during the interview, aired Nov. 19 on KLZ 560-AM, responded enthusiastically to Lundberg's idea to give state money to Texas.

"Senator, that is something I would definitely applaud funding. I think that is very important," Clark told Lundberg on air. "I think it affects all of us, even here in the state of Colorado. Senator Marble, what say you?"

"…I agree. It’s exactly the way I feel," responded State Sen. Vicki Marble, who's the new Republican State Senate Caucus Chair.

Sen. Vicki Marble (R).

Sen. Vicki Marble (R).

Both Marble and Lundberg told Clark they believe Texas is demonstrating to the federal government how to secure the border.

"We could secure the border if the federal government would show some backbone, even as the state of Texas has," Lundberg told Clark.

"If people could just go down [to Texas] and see, and have the opportunity to see what we saw and do what we did, they would understand," Marble told Clark. "This is so critical. And I agree with Senator Lundberg on what he said about the steps to take. I believe it is very necessary."

Lundberg said Texas legislators asked him, during a November fact-finding mission to the Texas, if Colorado could help pay for Texas' border security efforts.

Listen to Marble and Lundberg here:

(more…)

Mike Coffman’s ENDA Convictions Wither Post-Election

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

A letter from several Republican members of Congress today urges House Speaker John Boehner to immediately allow a vote on the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar discrimination in hiring decisions based on sexual orientation:

As the 113th Congress draws to a close, we respectfully encourage you to support inclusion of the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA), a commonsense piece of legislation to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, as part of any available legislative vehicle including the National Defense Authorization Act.

Here in the United States we value the quality of an individual’s work over who they are. We already protect individuals from discrimination based onrace, color, religion, sex, or national origin. ENDA is necessary for fellow Americans who do not enjoy these same protections. In 29 states, an estimated four million workers can be legally fired because of their sexual orientation. Standing up for the individual liberty of workers is the right thing to do. No one should be denied a job denied a promotion or fired because of whom they are…

As Justin Snow of Washington, D.C. LGBT news publication Metro Weekly reports, this letter was signed by six of the eight Republican co-sponsors of ENDA in the House of Representatives:

The letter was signed by six of ENDA’s eight Republican cosponsors in the House. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fl.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Charlie Dent (Penn.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.) and Jon Runyan (N.J.) attached their names to the letter…

For more than a year, ENDA, which would prohibit most employers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, has been blocked by leadership of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Boehner himself has voiced his opposition to the bill, which he has said is unnecessary. In November of last year, the Senate approved ENDA 64-32 with the support of ten Republicans — the most Senate Republicans to ever vote for a piece of gay rights legislation, let alone one that protects transgender Americans.

…Despite long odds, several LGBT-rights organizations, particularly those focused on winning support among Republican lawmakers, are continuing lobbying efforts on ENDA until the 114th Congress is sworn in next month.

It's simple arithmetic that ENDA would be much easier to pass in the present lame-duck session of Congress than after January, when Republicans will take control of the U.S. Senate and expand their House majority by several seats. That's why these Republican ENDA cosponsors are pushing as hard as they can to get the provision attached to anything they can–including the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Congress is working hard to pass before adjournment for the holidays.

But as Snow reports, only six of the eight GOP sponsors of ENDA signed the letter. Who didn't sign, you ask?

Reps. Michael Grimm (N.Y.) and Mike Coffman (Colo.) did not sign the letter.

Now, Rep. Michael Grimm of Staten Island is facing a criminal investigation over campaign finance violations and tax fraud despite winning re-election last month. So you could reasonably see how Grimm might be indisposed to make waves within the GOP caucus. But what about Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado? Coffman's decision to cosponsor ENDA last April was a major surprise after his longtime stand against any protection for LGBT Americans. Prior to that, Coffman had campaigned strongly against marriage equality in Colorado, voted against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and even served as state chairman for notoriously anti-gay Gov. Rick Perry's presidential campaign. Coffman's change of heart of ENDA was, as Politico reported at the time, easily attributable to political motives:

The Colorado Republican has reversed positions on immigration and abortion in recent months as he tries to fend off an challenge from Democrat Andrew Romanoff in Colorado’s competitive sixth district.

And…that election is now over. We don't yet know what reason Coffman may have given to refuse to sign this letter calling for an ENDA fast-track, but the effect is the same whatever his excuse: legislation that Coffman claims to support, and earned him significant political credit for supporting, will become much harder to pass when the next Congress convenes in January.

And that appears to be just fine with Mike Coffman.

Hickenlooper Apologizes for Sand Creek

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

hicksandcreek
Image via Facebook

Posted today on Gov. Hickenlooper's Facebook page – and, I imagine, on other websites as well…

Today, as runners complete the 16th annual, 180-mile Sand Creek Spiritual Healing run, marking the 150th anniversary and commemoration of the Sand Creek Massacre, I offer something that has been too long in coming.

On behalf of the state of Colorado, I want to apologize.

To the runners, to the Tribal Leaders and to all of the Indigenous people and the proud and painful legacy you represent…

On behalf of the good, peaceful and loving people in Colorado, I am sorry for the atrocity that our government and its agents visited upon your ancestors. I want to assure you that we will not run from this history, and that we will always work for peace and healing.

This is, as the governor notes, a long time in coming – too long. Thank you, Governor.

East High Students Walk Out In Ferguson Protest

UPDATE #2: Four Denver Police officers were injured by a motorist suffering "medical issues" while they were escorting students from downtown Denver back to East High SchoolDenver Post:

The officers and the driver were transported to Denver Health. One officer in critical condition was taken into surgery, Police Chief Robert White said. Another officer had serious injuries. The two other officers were treated for "minor injuries," White said.

White added it is "not our best day."

Four mangled bicycles were seen on the north side of Colfax Avenue between High Street and Williams Street. A nurse on the scene was covered in blood, and a wide area was cordoned off by police.

—–

UPDATE: FOX 31:

The Denver Post reported about 1,000 students took part in the march.

As they marched, students chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Justice for Michael,” according to several accounts on Twitter.

After reaching Civic Center Park, the crowd moved toward downtown along the 16th Street Mall.  They mostly spread out and dispersed after that.

Around 11:30 a.m., the students regathered at Colfax and Broadway, where they held a 4 1/2-minute moment of silence, marking every hour Brown was in the street. The group then began a march back to the high school.

—–

Just getting word of this, apparently a huge crowd of students from Denver's East High School have walked out of class this morning, shutting down Colfax Avenue near the Colorado state capitol in protest over the shooting of African-American teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri:

We'll update with coverage once available–looks like a pretty big event.

Where is Michael Bennet on Tax Extenders and another Wall Street Insider at Treasury?

Colorado's soon to be only Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Michael Bennet, is going to have to make some tough decisions soon. By most accounts, the planning for 2016's election is already underway, with larger strategies that will have to be make public being dissected and fine-tuned. 

Bennet has played it fairly safe throughout his career and managed to win a not so easy election last time. He figured out the P.R. part of his job quite adeptly: a feint to the left on the public option (where he ended up doing nothing) was matched with a blatant give to the right on union "card check" legislation.

Playing the dispassionate "third way" type along with small-ball stuff for Colorado and consistent whining about DC's Republican-rooted dysfunction (both sides don't "do it", Michael. -z) rounds out a conventional term by a conventional politician subscribed to all the standard Democratic political conventions of the last several years.

I don't think those conventions will hold the last 2 years of Obama's presidency. I'm not the only one who thinks that way; and voters surely rejected those conventions in the election we just witnessed. How else to explain why progressive policies won while candidates who ignored them – Landrieu, Udall, et. al - didn't? (That's a rhetorical question, CPOLS. cheeky)

This makes Michael Bennet's next public pronouncements, on tax extenders for Big Corporations and (maybe) the Middle Class, and another Wall Street Insider nominated by President Obama, all the more important:

Only progressives are opposed to the rich-people's gifts. So, progressives — Merkley, Warren, Reid (are you with us?) and friends — why not play a strong game instead of a weak one? 

Instead of surrendering almost everything you care about to get the least bit of something, progressives should threaten everything the other side wants and frankly, call their money-loving bluff. The White House wants the rich to have these gifts in their stocking; all Senate Republicans agree; and so does every corporate-loving Democrat (like "sorry for playing hard" Michael Bennet). Make the other side fight for the money, and look like it.

Could progressives kill the whole deal if they don't get what they want? If you put me in charge of the Open Rebellion insurgency, I'd try. After all, the entire left press is on your side — consider that Volsky's source could already be Senate progressives. In addition, the issue is hugely visible. And even if you lose, you'll get the best deal possible, not the worst one available. Just say to the other three players:

"Progressives in the Senate stand for working people and those struggling with poverty. The deal on the table is unacceptable in every way. We would rather have no deal than the one on offer. If you want our vote, put the deal on the table in 2014 that we voted for in 2013. That way everyone wins. That or nothing from us."

The White House and less-progressive senators will play the kitten card and complain, "But what about the poor?" You then say: 

"We care as much as you do. In fact, we care so much about the poor, we want the best deal possible, not the worst."

"Triangulate this," in other words. The White House has already come out against the size of the "bonanza." This offers them a chance to look even better by siding with you (they've already promised a veto, your own bottom line) — and at the same time, shows them a corner and offers a paint brush if they don't. I think this is worth a test. 

Progressives who really care about people are always blackmailed — far too successfully in my opinion — with a "kitten held hostage" as I alluded to above. Here the kitten (and believe me, kitten lives are valuable) is a set of tax breaks for the poor and renewable energy credits, items of real value. But the only way to end blackmail is to walk away from it. "Do you love your kitten as much as we love ours? Let's find out. No kitten needs to suffer in this deal." 

Bennet can keep doing what he's done in the past, and start lining up his post-Senate gig, or he can come out like a proud, progressive Democrat, and start fighting for more than just the minimum that it takes to be called a Democrat these days………which hasn't been a whole hell of a lot up to now.

 

Another Fake “Concerned Citizen” Celebrates Fracking

Longtime oil industry employee Michelle Smith.

Longtime oil industry employee Michelle Smith.

A press release from energy industry advocacy group Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development yesterday discusses a pro-fracking ad (above) that's been playing for a couple of weeks in Colorado:

Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) has released a new television commercial featuring Michelle Smith, an organic based farmer from Elbert, Colorado, who relies on income from oil and natural gas development to help sustain her family farming operations. In the advertisement, Smith shares with viewers: 

“Mineral rights make all the difference to our small organic based farm.  Like many Colorado farm-to-table businesses, if we can’t offset operating costs with our minerals, then we’re out of business. Organic operations are expensive. People like us rely on those payments for their family’s healthcare or their kids’ education. An attack on fracking is essentially an attack on landowners like us. Those who would ban fracking ignore our rights, and that just gets my goat.”

…Beyond her message in the commercial, Smith has shared that “as a rancher in Elbert County, Colorado, my family’s livelihood relies on the quality of the pasture that our livestock grazes on. That’s why every decision I make, I make with my ranch’s future in mind,” she says.

Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post gave this ad favorable treatment in a blog post last month:

A new ad promoting fracking in Colorado features an Elbert County couple who raises goats and farms organically.

The idea of pairing organic farmers and fracking comes from Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development.

But there's more to the story of Michelle J. Smith, registered Republican of Elbert County, than either CRED or Bartels saw fit to explain:

The Quiat Companies is an innovative investment company, which is comprised of approximately fifty real estate and oil & gas holdings throughout the United States…with over 33 years of professional experience in the oil and gas business, Ms. Smith has been with The Quiat Companies since 1992 focusing on acquisitions, divestitures, and coordinating successful drilling joint ventures. [Pols emphasis] As Land Manager, she is instrumental in managing the nationwide assets of our fifteen oil and gas limited liability companies.

Ms. Smith’s professional experience includes Davis Oil Company (Denver, Colorado) and Anderman Oil Company (also in Denver) as well as acting as an Independent Land Negotiator. She is the president of the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO) Rockies chapter, a member of the American Association of Petroleum Landman (AAPL), Denver Association of Petroleum Landmen (DAPL), board member of Vital for Colorado and a graduate of Cypress College (California).

Just a salt-of-the-earth Colorado farmer–an organic farmer at that–trying to hold down the farm, right? Wrong. Much like the Republican political activists trotted out by Americans for Prosperity to tell their dubious "Obamacare horror stories," "organic farmer" Michelle Smith is about as unbiased a source on fracking as an oil and gas industry lobbyist–which makes sense, since she basically is one.

Your friends seeing this ad on TV probably ought to know that.

Gumming Abortion To Death, Part II: Joke’s On You, Ladies

Abortion-Rights

One of the central issues of the 2014 elections in Colorado was the battle over abortion policy–both at the federal and state levels, where GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner outlasted months of withering attacks on the issue, and voters again rejected a "Personhood" abortion ban ballot measure. Colorado has a long history of support for women's reproductive rights, and the lopsided margins by which Personhood has been defeated here in recent years have made the issue toxic for Republican politicians who used to proudly campaign on their support for banning abortion.

In 2014, however, Republicans successfully blunted the issue of abortion in Colorado–more than that, they managed to turn the debate back on Democrats, successfully countering that liberal "social issue warriors" were wrongly obsessing about a non-issue. Conservative go-to foil on women's issues Laura Carno wrote an op-ed suggesting that the entire question of abortion rights in this year's elections was overblown–declaring flat-out, despite the many avowedly pro-life GOP candidates on the ballot, that Colorado womens' "right to an abortion is not in jeopardy." In the Denver Post's endorsement of Cory Gardner, they claim with no supporting evidence whatsoever that "Gardner's election would pose no threat to abortion rights." Next month, one of the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate's top priorities is a 20-week abortion ban.

In 2006, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez promised to sign an abortion ban in Colorado that would make no exceptions even for cases of rape or incest, and was happy to explain in detail exactly why he thought that was the right thing to do. This year, Beauprez's message on abortion was a complete about-face: "I respect people's opinion, women's right to that choice."

Because Beauprez was defeated, and Democrats retained at least partial control of the state legislature, the question of what Republicans in full control would do on abortion isn't going to be tested here. But what's going on elsewhere, in the wake of the GOP's huge gains in state legislatures across America? As Politico's Paige Cunningham reports, all that stuff you heard before the election about abortion rights not being in jeopardy–it's simply not true.

The big Republican gains in the November elections strengthened and enlarged the anti-abortion forces in the House and the Senate. But it’s the GOP victories in the statehouses and governor’s mansions that are priming the ground for another round of legal restrictions on abortion…

Abortion rights advocates have had setbacks in the states for several years, with a surge of legislative activity since 2011. [Pols emphasis] Women seeking abortions may face mandatory waiting periods or ultrasound requirements. Clinics may face stricter building codes or hospital admitting privilege rules they can’t satisfy. Dozens of clinics have shut down in multiple states. Texas, for instance, has fewer than 10 abortion clinics now. A year ago, it had 40.

Republicans now hold two-thirds of the state legislative bodies, after winning control of 11 more chambers. They completely control the legislature in more than half the states, adding Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia to that list earlier this month. And they gained two more governor’s seats, so they will hold 31 next year.

Steady Democratic control of Colorado in recent years means we haven't seen the same kinds of proposed restrictions on abortion that have passed in many other states, and the ones that have been introduced have been defeated with enough fanfare to render them political liabilities for Republicans. Despite this, 2014 marked the greatest challenge to Democratic control by Republicans since Democrats took the legislature in 2004–and before the ballots were fully counted, Republicans had a few glorious moments when control of the Colorado House, Senate, and Governor's Mansion were all at least hypothetically in reach.

Today, even with Republicans only in narrow control of the Colorado Senate after last month's elections, a program credited with reducing teen pregnancy by 40% is already in jeopardy. Without more power, there's not much that Republicans in Colorado can do legislatively to further restrict abortion and contraception access–but now that the election is over, it's time to recognize that the downplaying of abortion by the GOP and accommodating local media was enormously deceptive. The truth is, restrictions on reproductive choice are passing across the nation–and if Republicans had taken control of this state as they did so many others in the last two midterm elections, restrictions on abortion rights could well become law in Colorado too.

In that event, a lot of local pundits and media types would owe you an apology.

Dr. Chaps’ alleged friendship with Rand Paul raises questions

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), state Rep.-elect Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), state Rep.-elect Gordon Klingenschmitt (R).

Maybe you think Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt, who will be joining the Colorado General Assembly in January, is easy to ignore because he's so far out there, given his comments about performing lesbian exorcismsObama is a demon, etc.

But if you believe Klingenschmitt, he's got at least one friend in a high place. That would be GOP presidential hopeful Rand Paul.

In an April broadcast of his regular "Pray In Jesus' Name News," Klingenschmitt tells us (9 min 25 seconds into it) that he's friendly with the Kentucky Senator.

"Help pass Senate Bill 583, The Life Begins at Conception Act," Klingenschmitt urges his three listeners, not counting me. "This personhood bill, introduced by my friend, Senator Rand Paul, can actually defend life and overturn Roe versus Wade."

Nothing wrong with Dr. Chaps and Rand Paul being friendly. But you wonder, has Paul objected to Klingenschmitt's craziness?

And it raises the question of whether Klingenschmitt's soon-to-be legislative colleagues will speak up during the legislative session when, inevitably, Klingenschmitt grabs the media spotlight by opening his mouth.

Navy’s Discharge of “Dr. Chaps” Upheld

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Our friends at Right Wing Watch have the latest update today in the continuing story of Colorado's nuttiest Republican Representative-elect, Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt of Colorado House District 15. As followers of a story that has made the trip from fringe sideshow to poster child for the incoming Republican Class of 2014 know, Klingenschmitt is a former Navy chaplain who was discharged after (among many other things) wearing his service uniform to a political media event in contravention of specific orders. Klingenschmitt's discharge from the Navy became part of his campaign message, claiming it was the result of his "praying in Jesus' name" at a demonstration across from the White House in 2005.

Except it wasn't.

Gordon Klingenschmitt, the right-wing televangelist who recently won a seat in the Colorado General Assembly, built a career out of making wildly inaccurate claims about anti-Christian persecution in the U.S. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Klingenschmitt’s entire career as a conservative activist is also based on a persecution story that is completely made-up.

Klingenschmitt, who goes by “Dr. Chaps,” has based his political activism on his own personal story of persecution, claiming that the military censored and fired him because he said the name of Jesus in his prayers as a chaplain. He filed a lawsuit to protect his First Amendment rights and has used his story to win persecution points from the Religious Right and raise lots of money for his group, the Pray In Jesus Name Project.

But as Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State reports, Klingenschmitt lost his lawsuit last week…because the incident never happened.

As we’ve known for several years, Klingenschmitt was not dismissed for using the name of Jesus in a prayer, but for wearing military garb at a political event, in violation of military regulations, among other reasons that had nothing to do with the fact he delivered Christian prayers.

The ruling is worth a read all by itself, including an unflattering description of a Klingenschmitt fire-and-brimstone memorial service while serving aboard the USS Anzio, horrible reviews from fellow sailors–"worst CHAP I have seen in 17 years" reads one–and the details of Klingenschmitt's defiance of orders prohibiting him from speaking to the media in his military uniform. The court concludes:

[T]he Court finds unpersuasive Dr. Klingenschmitt’s argument that his First Amendment right to practice his religious beliefs was infringed by Captain Pyle’s Order that he not wear his uniform to the media event held in Lafayette Park in March 2006. Captain Pyle’s Order was based on Navy regulations that prohibit the wearing of a uniform in connection with political activities…

In short, the record fails to support a showing of any causal connection between any protected activity and Dr. Klingenschmitt’s separation. For that reason, and because his other challenges to the lawfulness of the recertification process are without merit, the Court concludes that the Navy’s decision not to recertify Dr. Klingenschmitt, which resulted in his administrative separation from the Navy, was neither arbitrary, capricious, nor contrary to law.

Klingenschmitt's troubles, based on our experience in the past years or so, would seem to have more to do with his own extreme combative ramblings than anything else. This is a man who claims that both Barack Obama and defeated Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis are "demons," and that only people who are "going to heaven" deserve equal rights from government. Klingenschmitt claims that "Obamacare causes cancer," and before apologizing suggested that Rep. Jared Polis wanted to "join ISIS in beheading Christians."

We always assumed stuff like that was coming out of "Dr. Chaps'" mouth in his Navy days, too.

The upside? Klingenschmitt's story should pair well with another Republican from Colorado Springs, Rep. Janak Joshi, who lost his license to practice medicine before being elected to the legislature in 2010.

Take pride, El Paso County! "Dr. Chaps" looks forward to representing you next.

For If It Prosper, None Dare Call It a “War on Women”

waronwomen

AP via the Denver Post, a familiar 2015 Colorado legislative battleground already taking shape:

Democrats who credit a drop in teen pregnancy to expanding access to long-acting birth control such as intrauterine devices have to persuade Republicans to use state money for contraceptives…

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative has provided low-income women access to birth control like IUDs and hormone implants for free or low cost at 68 clinics in the state. But state officials say $5 million is needed to continue the program.

The problem, of course, is that Democrats no longer have full control of the Colorado General Assembly. And that means the decision of whether to continue a program credited with reducing the rate of teen pregnancy in Colorado by 40%, in addition to reducing the number of abortions, is at least partly in the hands of Assistant Senate Majority Leader-elect Kevin Lundberg.

"We are talking about the most critical issue of protecting life or abortion," said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, a Republican from Berthoud who will chair the Health and Human Services Committee. Lundberg said he doesn't oppose the use of condoms or pills. But he said IUDs are "abortifacients," meaning they cause abortions.

"That is not medically correct," countered Dr. Larry Wolk, the state's chief medical officer and the director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment… [Pols emphasis]

The thing is, we already know it's not medically correct, we just dealt with the incorrect assertion that interuterine devices (IUDs) are "abortifacients" when failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez said as much during a debate against Gov. John Hickenlooper this year. Beauprez was drilled by reproductive health experts for claiming IUDs are "aborifacient" after Hickenlooper cited this same program a successful policy. Other Republican candidates, like U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner desperately trying to convince undecided voters that the whole idea of banning birth control is "crazy," watched in horror as Beauprez at least morally validated the idea of doing just that.

Perhaps the biggest triumph of the 2014 elections in Colorado for Republicans was successfully "gumming to death" the issue of reproductive choice, which had cost them dearly in previous years as Colorado's electorate rejected abortion bans over and over. Led by Cory Gardner's deliberate campaign to "muddy up" the issue enough to blunt Democratic attacks, the GOP's insistence that the "war on women" is fake eventually suckered enough pundits, reporters, and editorial boards to sway conventional wisdom–at least through November 4th.

But as we'll all learn again next month, the "war on women" simply takes a break during election years.

More on why we know immigrants aren’t spreading disease

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Vicki Marble (R).

Sen. Vicki Marble (R).

Last week I reported that Tea-Party radio hosts Ken Clark (KLZ 560-AM) and Peter Boyles (KNUS 710-AM), along with Colorado's GOP State Senate Caucus Chair Vicki Marble, believe undocumented immigrants, as Marble put it, "bring the diseases. They bring whatever from across the border — things we haven’t seen in decades and thought we eradicated. Our whole country is at risk.”

There's no credible evidence for this, like there wasn't for attacks on immigrants throughout American history, but how do we know this?

"You have to assume that if [undocumented immigrants] get sick they are going to get medical care or die," said Dr. Michelle Barron in the infectious disease department of the University of Colorado School of Medicine.. "There is a long list of diseases that hospitals must report to the health department. Tuberculosis. Measles. Let’s say you came to the emergency room after traveling in Russia, and you have measles. That’s considered 24-hour-reportable. You would then be contacted by the health department and asked questions about vaccinations and where you’ve been. They would identify how big of a scope this would be."

"Public health departments actually report these things," Barron continued. "There's public reporting. The information wouldn’t be hidden in the background because of a political agenda. It’s part of the reporting that has to happen. If there is a trend, that would be investigated."

And, she added, if a serious disease outbreak or threat existed, it would be "all over the news," not left to the investigators on talk radio only.

But what happens if we can’t find the immigrants, I asked.

"The public health department has lots of experience hunting people down," she said. "They will go to your door. There are always the few people who won’t talk or answer the door, but they have their networks of people who will talk, even in homeless communities. Homeless people don’t want to get disease either. They will talk. The public health department is more savvy than people realize."

How to convince skeptics like Clark and Marble?

"Really and truly, you have to trust that the health care workers are doing the right thing," said Barron. "If you have already decided what you feel about this, no matter what evidence you are presented with, you are not going to believe it."

For more information, including a transcript of the Marble interview, click here.

 

Hick Picks Kathy Green as Communications Director

From the office of the Governor:

Gov. John Hickenlooper today announced that Kathy Green will become communications director and official spokesperson, effective immediately. Green has served as interim communications director since July 2014.

"We were fortunate that Kathy Green joined our team as a interim communications director and during that time we realized we’d be fools to let her go,” said Hickenlooper. “Kathy is a remarkably skilled communicator and meshes seamlessly with our team. She helps bring out the best in all of us.”

Most recently, Green directed marketing and communication efforts for the Colorado Tourism Office and Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT, helping the state integrate media, public relations, and business-to-business marketing programs while supporting consumer-based public relations. Her work earned the agency top recognition from the Business Marketing Association and the global Communicators Awards.

Prior to joining the state, Green worked at the City and County of Denver supporting special media projects under then-Mayor Hickenlooper including the Better Denver Bond program, the 2008 presidential election, the Democratic National Convention and public safety issues. Before joining the public sector, Green owned a consulting firm offering multi-discipline services to clients across industries in both public and private sectors. She holds a journalism degree from Iowa State University.

Maximillian Potter, who took on the dual roles of Communications Director and Senior Media Adviser, will continue on in his Senior Media Adviser role reporting to the governor and will craft overall messaging of the governor’s office. 

This announcement brings some formality to the Communications office, which had been manned (somewhat) by Max Potter following the departure of Eric Brown last summer.